We learn a lot about ourselves when we can't control the conditions. What if instead of getting frustrated when things aren't going our way, we could just make peace with challenges and open ourselves up for the lesson?
I encountered such a teaching moment last fall when frustration nearly got the best of me during a 50km race.
With just a few kilometers to go, instead of focusing on the reward of accomplishing the goal, I was consumed with irritation.
I hated the hills, the leaves on the ground and the scenic lakeside trail because it was never straight. I even tried convincing myself I was lost when I knew that was nearly impossible – especially since other runners were passing me. The more frustrated I got, the more miserable I felt. Soon I was tripping and losing my footing. "I just wanted to be done!" I grumbled to myself.
And then I tuned into my thoughts.
I was using so much energy on things I couldn't control. I read the course map and race reports. There were no surprises. I CHOSE this adventure. Yet I worked myself up over the conditions and lost sight of what I'd set out to accomplish.
Then I laughed. “You’re getting mad at the miles,” I thought.
GETTING MAD AT THE MILES
As a communications consultant and a small business owner, I encounter similar frustrations in business all the time. I see it in my clients as well.
We set impressive goals and outline the process, but when the situation gets uncomfortable or demanding, frustration takes root. We start looking for shortcuts when there aren't any. We want to reach the finish line without putting in the miles.
So what's a coping strategy?
SURRENDER AND EMBRACE
Karl Hoagland, the publisher of Ultrarunning Magazine, recently shared similar thoughts in this touching essay, On the Trail.
In it, Karl reminds us, ". . . the trail doesn’t care, it is the same whether I’m cruising or struggling, and at times like these it is testing me." He's learned that changing his attitude about the challenges on the trail is a sure way to ease unnecessary discomfort.
A few months ago, determined to stay focused on the reward of finishing, I tested my new mindset. I was 35k into another 50k race when I heard the familiar voice again.
“What? This is crazy! The map didn’t show a hill here! This is ridiculous. This can’t be right!”
This time, however, it wasn’t my voice. Instead of getting frustrated, I used my extra energy to take pictures of the yellow wildflowers on the course.
As my fellow runner huffed by me angrily, dragging his weighted-down body toward the distant top, I patted his back as encouragement to keep going.
“Don’t get mad at the miles,” I thought as I followed him to the top.
Photo credit: Shelby Barnes